Rheumatoid arthritis (rue-ma-TOYD arth-write-tis) is a complete body form of arthritis. Typically, it involves inflammation, stiffness, swelling, and a limiting of movement of the joint linings. It can also cause inflammation of internal organs. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) typically affects multiple joints at once. Rheumatoid arthritis is generally a chronic disease that continues to progress and cause pain and suffering. Unfortunately, there is no known cure. It is the second most common form of arthritis, just behind Osteoarthritis. If left untreated, Rheumatoid Arthritis can lead to permanent disability.
What are the symptoms? Tenderness, swelling, pain, stiffness, and a more limited range of motion are the more common side effects of Rheumatoid arthritis. Stiffness is generally at its peak early in the morning. The smaller and more distant joints such as the hands and feet are generally the more intensely involved. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect any joint however. In addition, the systemic effects can include loss of energy, loss of appetite, dry eyes and mouth (Sjogren’s Syndrome), low grade fevers, and rheumatoid nodules (soft lumps around the arms). One of the biggest indicators of Rheumatoid Arthritis is the morning stiffness that lasts for several hours to all day long.
Who gets Rheumatoid Arthritis? Millions of people currently have Rheumatoid Arthritis. As the advancing baby boomer generation continues to age, the amount of people with Rheumatoid Arthritis is only going to increase. The majority of people with Rheumatoid Arthritis are women, but there are many men who develop Rheumatoid Arthritis as well. It generally strikes the middle aged population, but can develop in the early 20s – 30s.
What causes Rheumatoid Arthritis? We do not completely know what ultimately causes Rheumatoid Arthritis, but we do know that it appears to be an autoimmune style of disorder in which parts of the body’s own immune system malfunctions and attacks the joints and the body. There may be a genetic link.
What are some of the available treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis? While there is sadly no cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis, most therapies for reducing symptoms are generally fairly to very effective at easing pain and slowing the progression of the disease. Most treatments center around preventing disability and loss of quality of life, as well as providing continual maintenance care to slow (in some cases very significantly) the progression of the disease.
How is Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosed? Only your doctor can tell you for sure that you have Rheumatoid Arthritis, but the most common methods of diagnosis include an analysis of symptoms, your medical history, lab tests, a physical exam, x-rays, and possibly a test for the rheumatoid factor. The rheumatoid factor is a test that detects an antibody that is found in roughly 80% of people with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Please be aware that there is currently no single test that will tell you if you have Rheumatoid Arthritis.
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